Citroen privateer Petter Solberg has taken the lead on Rally Finland following the short 4.19 kilometre Laajavuori stage, which kicked off the eighth round in the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship, this evening.
Solberg completed the forest test, situated in the shadow of the town's 100m ski jumping hill, in 2 minutes 33.2 seconds and despite the heat-wave - the thermometer reached 37.2ºC today to record Finland's highest ever temperature - huge crowds turned out to watch the action.
BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Mikko Hirvonen, who won the event last year and who had set the pace this morning in the shakedown in his Ford Focus RS WRC, was 'best of the rest', 1 second slower.
"I had a lot of butterflies in my stomach at the stage start," Hirvonen admitted. "I stalled the engine twice and lost time so I'm very happy with second fastest. It was a tricky test but good to start the rally with a proper forest stage. I can't wait for tomorrow!"
Citroen #1 Sebastien Loeb and Jari-Matti Latvala finished joint third on the leaderboard, just 0.6 seconds further back, followed by Sebastien Ogier and Stobart man Henning Solberg, who in turn were both 3.2 seconds off the pace and in joint P5.
"I was nervously excited before the start," said Latvala."I was a little too aggressive in a couple of places and went too wide, but there were no problems. I had a good feeling with the car and I feel confident."
Dani Sordo meanwhile was next up and seventh, running for the Citroen Junior Team on this round, followed by Britain's Matthew Wilson, Mads Ostberg and then F1 2007 world champion, Kimi Raikkonen and BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT 'third' driver Khalid Al-Qassimi.
In the SWRC, Jari Ketomaa was quickest in his Ford Fiesta S2000, while Juha Salo took the early initiative in the PWRC.
Rally Finland now continues on Friday and it is a marathon day with the 99 competitors starting at 06.30 and not returning for the final overnight halt until 21.15.
In total it includes over 140 competitive kilometres with ten stages on the bill, the final one a repeat of this evening's short forest stage. SS2, the 12.75 km Urria 1 test, is due to start at 07.42 hours [all times local].
Rally Finland: Overall standings after Stage 1 (Top 10):
1. Petter Solberg
PSWRT Citroen C4 WRC 2mins 33.2secs
2. Mikko Hirvonen
BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +00mins 01.0secs
3. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 01.6secs
= Jari-Matti Latvala
BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +00mins 01.6secs
5. Sebastien Ogier
Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 03.2secs
= Henning Solberg
Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +00mins 03.2secs
7. Dani Sordo
Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +00mins 03.8secs
8. Matthew Wilson
Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +02mins 05.4secs
= Mads Ostberg
Adapta Subaru Impreza WRC +00mins 05.4secs
10 Kimi Raikkonen
Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +00mins 06.4secs
= Khalid Al-Qassimi
BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +00mins 06.4secs
13. Juha Kankkunen
Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +02mins 09.6secs
SWRC Standings after Stage 1 (Top 3):
1. Jari Ketomaa
Ford Fiesta S2000 2mins 42.6secs
2. Juho Hanninen
Skoda Fabia S2000 +00mins 01.4secs
3. Patrik Sandell
Skoda Fabia S2000 +00mins 02.0secs
PWRC Standings after Stage 1 (Top 3):
1. Juha Salo
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 2mins 48.8secs
2. Jukka Ketomaki
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +00mins 00.3secs
3. Ott Tanak
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +00mins 00.5secs
all times unofficial